cir·​cum·​lo·​cu·​tion | \ ˌsər-kəm-lō-ˈkyü-shən How to pronounce circumlocution (audio) \

Definition of circumlocution

1 : the use of an unnecessarily large number of words to express an idea had no patience with diplomatic circumlocutions
2 : evasion in speech circumlocutions concerning what constitutes torture

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Other Words from circumlocution

circumlocutory \ ˌsər-​kəm-​ˈlä-​kyə-​ˌtȯr-​ē How to pronounce circumlocutory (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms for circumlocution


equivocation, shuffle, tergiversation

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Did You Know?

In The King's English, grammarian H.W. Fowler advised, "Prefer the single word to the circumlocution." Alas, that good advice was not followed by the framers of "circumlocution." They actually used two terms in forming that word for unnecessarily verbose prose or speech. But their choices were apt; circumlocution derives from the Latin circum-, meaning "around," and locutio, meaning "speech - so it literally means "roundabout speech." Since the 15th century, English writers have used "circumlocution" with disdain, naming a thing to stop, or better yet, to avoid altogether. Charles Dickens even used it to satirize political runarounds when he created the fictional Circumlocution Office, a government department that delayed the dissemination of information and just about everything else.

Examples of circumlocution in a Sentence

He was criticized for his use of circumlocution. I'm trying to avoid circumlocutions in my writing.

Recent Examples on the Web

Although incredibly popular, with 60% approval ratings, Ahok was considered by many to be a divisive figure, by virtue both of his minority status and of his bluntness, which ran counter to Javanese traditions of deference and circumlocution. The Economist, "How religion shapes elections in Indonesia," 12 Apr. 2018 Mungiu, like many Romanian directors, has a sadistic streak for circumlocution. Jordan Hoffman,, "A Good Father Breaks Bad in Captivating Corruption Drama Graduation," 6 Apr. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'circumlocution.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of circumlocution

circa 1518, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for circumlocution

Middle English circumlocucyon, from Latin circumlocution-, circumlocutio, from circum- + locutio speech, from loqui to speak

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Time Traveler for circumlocution

The first known use of circumlocution was circa 1518

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More Definitions for circumlocution



English Language Learners Definition of circumlocution

formal : the use of many words to say something that could be said more clearly and directly by using fewer words

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Comments on circumlocution

What made you want to look up circumlocution? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something desired as essential

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